Saudi dissident and suspected terrorist leader Osama bin Laden is seen in this undated file photo taken somewhere in Afghanistan.
New details on bin Laden burial at sea
02:16 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Defense Department releases military e-mails with details on the burial at sea of bin Laden

Less than a dozen of the ship's "leadership" were informed of the burial

Traditional procedures for Islamic burial were followed, according to the e-mails

The documents were released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit

CNN  — 

The burial at sea of Osama bin Laden after he was killed by Navy SEALs last year followed traditional Islamic procedures, according to newly released military e-mails, but less than a dozen “leadership” members aboard the Navy carrier where the service took place were informed of the burial.

“Any sailors watch the burial?” a Navy commander asked the public affairs officer on the USS Carl Vinson in a May 3, 2011, e-mail. The Carl Vinson was the carrier where the SEALs took bin Laden’s body by helicopter after he was killed during the May 2, 2011, raid at his compound in Pakistan.

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“Only a small group of the leadership was informed – less than a dozen,” the public affairs officer replied. Another e-mail stated, “Burial No Sailors Watched.”

Ten heavily redacted e-mails were released by the Department of Defense in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit initially filed by the watchdog group Judicial Watch.

In communications between high-ranking officers, the e-mails describe Islamic burial procedures being carried out with no fanfare, apparently with few of the officers and enlisted personnel aboard the huge carrier aware of what was going on aboard their ship.

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“Traditional procedures for Islamic burial was followed,” said one e-mail, adding, “The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet. The body was placed in a weighted bag. a military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker. After the words were complete, the body was placed on a prepared flat board, tipped up, whereupon the deceased’s body slid into the sea.”

The e-mail detailing the burial account was sent on May 2, 2011, and addressed to former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen.

Naval officers used code words in some of the e-mails exchanged shortly after the raid was completed, with an exchange between two admirals including, “FEDEX delivered the package. Both trucks are safely enroute home base.”

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CNN’s Jennifer Rizzo contributed to this report.